Over the Hedge: What a Cartoon Can Teach You About Dietary Moderation.
Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.
If you follow the Family & Fit Facebook page, you know it’s February vacation for Hayden and that my favorite 7 year old is spending the week with me. Yesterday he watched Over the Hedge, and while I’ve seen the movie several times before; this time, I can’t get some of the words out of my head. The raccoon said, “Humans always have food. We eat to live – these guys live to eat! Let me show you what I’m talking about! The human mouth is called a ‘piehole’, the human being is called a ‘couch potato’. The telephone is a device to summon food. The door is the portal for passing of food. The delivery truck is one of the many food transportation vehicles. Humans bring the food, take the food, ship the food, they drive food. The stove gets the food hot. The refrigerator keeps the food cold. That table is the altar where they worship food. Seltzer is what they eat when they’ve eaten too much food. The treadmill gets rid of the guilt so they can eat more food! Food! Food! Food! Fooooooddddd!”
It’s sad. I mean, really sad.
My newsfeed never fails to disappoint in this department either. I have an eclectic mix of decadent recipes and delicious looking food pictures merged with myriad health tips, workouts, and hard-bodies. You can find a plan, numerous experts, and “documented research” for anything you believe. In one sitting alone, I can read about why I should never do cardio and why I should do nothing but. That I should never skip breakfast, and that I shouldn’t eat until I’ve been up for at least three hours. I should focus more on fat and meat (Paleo), or that being vegetarian is the only way to be. I shouldn’t eat carbs (Atkins) – ever! Sweet potatoes are way better than white potatoes (ever look at the nutritional macros? They are virtually indistinguishable). I should eat six times a day. No, wait, I should actually fast intermittently. I should never eat after 7 p.m. and certainly should never eat fruit because it’s loaded with sugar. Egg yolks are bad for me. Don’t eat processed food. Ever! Sugar is bad. Artificial sweeteners are worse. I should measure everything. Or should I eat intuitively? I should only buy organic and locally produced food. I must avoid all GMOs, sugar, flour, soda, coffee, gluten, bread, grains, corn, dairy, anything white… Are these things blurring together for you too, or is it just me? We are consumed by what we consume. What we should; what we shouldn’t eat. Food! Food! Food! Fooooooddddd!
It really does seem to be all about the food.
That tiny two-letter word, “all” is critical. We’re actually all or nothing. Either we’re eating every single thing we want, with reckless abandon, or we’re eating nothing but salad greens. Either we’re on a diet or we’re not. We’re working out every single day or we don’t get off the couch for 8-10 hours. No time for moderation here! No in-between. We need to stick to this plan and even the slightest deviation will mean we are a failure.
The fact is: I’m just like you. I’m all or nothing most of the time. While I love the concepts of balance and moderation, I suck at both of them. I suspect most of us do. I’m working on it.
Contrary to all the noise in your newsfeed, try to remember that food is just food. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. No “clean” (or what? Dirty?) foods. There are foods that provide greater nutritional content and we should focus on those. There are foods that provide more saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and the things we should eat only in moderation. We should limit those. What happens the minute you tell yourself you can’t have something? You immediately want it. That’s all you think about! Change your thinking. Realize that you can have anything you want, any time you want. Tomorrow, or the day after, if you are really going to die without a bag of M&Ms, you can buy a small, individual sized bag then. They’ll still be there. It’s not that you “can’t” have the candy; it’s just that today you’re making a conscious decision to choose something better because what you really want is to feel better. You are in control! Give up on the idea of perfection and realize that you don’t have to “only” eat these things or “never“ eat those. Can you eat every thing you crave every day? Dessert, bread, fried foods, pasta, or alcohol whenever you feel like it? Only if you’re willing to accept the certain consequences that will accompany that action. Can you have a cookie every now and again, or a little Bailey’s in your coffee on Saturday? I certainly do!
Contrary to all the things I read about people being “hard core” and “all in”, perfection itself is unattainable. You might be perfect for a while but there will come this “one day”, this “one event” when you eat something you don’t think you’re supposed to. I’ve seen people then lament over it and feel guilty for days. I’ve seen one less-than-healthy food choice turn into a week of binging. I mean if you’re not going to be perfect, why bother, right? If you ate a bowl of ice cream, you might as well eat as much as you possibly can for the next several days. Clearly, you’re a failure.
In reality, perfection doesn’t exist. Don’t strive for perfection: just try to be better. Cut yourself a little slack. Make the best choices you can and work to improve those choices as you go through time. Hold yourself accountable. Giving up on change because you’re far from perfect misses the point of how beneficial small changes can be for your health. Start by picking your battle: cut sugar intake, reduce liquid calories, increase activity, drink more water, practice better portion control. Change one thing at a time but once you’ve made that change, don’t go back. If you have a mis-step, okay. Surprise: you’re a human! Get up, dust yourself off, pump up that flat, and get right back to your goals.